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Newlywed table tennis icon Fukuhara putting family first

Kyodo

Olympic table tennis player Ai Fukuhara, who held her wedding ceremony in Taipei earlier this month, says she will put family first before her sport.

Fukuhara, 28, told Taiwan’s Apple Daily in an interview published on Wednesday that she felt for the first time that she has found someone who is as important as table tennis.

Saying she is the kind of person who goes all-out for everything, Fukuhara told the newspaper that her experiences have taught her that she does not usually get good results if she tries to do two things at the same time.

“Because I’ve been playing table tennis for 24, 25 years . . . besides Hsiao-chieh and I just got married . . . I’m thinking of making our home a little better and then I’ll think about table tennis,” she was quoted as saying, referring to her husband, fellow table tennis Olympian Chiang Hung-chieh, by a nickname.

When asked about her plan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 27-year-old veteran’s reply indicated she is keeping her options open.

She said the upcoming games are “extremely tempting” for her because they will be the first such event to be held in Japan since the 1964 Olympics.

“But for me, the family is really, really important,” she said. “So I will give it a serious thought.”

The four-time Olympian expressed her intention to continue competing when she and Chiang announced their marriage in September last year.

However, she refrained from indicating when she will resume competitive table tennis or whether she will aim to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The couple have been living in Europe, with Chiang continuing his training in Germany and competing in Europe and Fukuhara taking a break from her busy schedule to be with Chiang.

They will hold another wedding ceremony in Japan next month.

Known affectionately as “Ai-chan” by her fans, Fukuhara started playing the sport at age 3 and soon became famous as a child table tennis prodigy.